DJ: Where does this terrifying genocidal urge come from? Is it the complete absence of moral constraints, of any kind of higher law?
JC: In the Chinese tradition, for the ruler to be indifferent to his people’s lives was not glorified; it was regarded as bad. The first emperor was regarded as a bad emperor. The traditional Chinese measurement of a good emperor was how much he cared about his people, so in that sense Mao also made a total break from traditional Chinese values.
JH: He rejected all moral values, in fact. Most of Mao’s killing really falls into two groups. One is exterminating so-called class enemies, which is inherent in communism. And then the single largest number were just simply expendable.
JC: It wasn’t mindless. Even though the victims were not real enemies, Mao still wanted the killings because they generated terror, and that is inherent in Bolshevism.
SSM: Absolutely. It was always about blood-letting; even before they were in power, they talked continually about the terror. So I think Jon’s absolutely right, that it was inherent in the whole project, from the beginning, in the ideology. So if you accepted Bolshevism, Marxism, Leninism, whatever you want to call it, you knew you were going to have to wipe out vast numbers of people at random because of their supposed class. And they would never decide what class anyone was in. The person at the top had to give rough guidelines and down it went to the villages, and there they just killed these people. Someone had to decide using whatever criteria they’d thought of that day.
JC: Yes, to generate fear, that’s how they perpetuated their regimes.
SSM: You estimate Mao killed 70 million?
JC: Yes. At least 70 million.
SSM: I think Stalin killed 20 to 25 million. Of course when one talks about these numbers, one’s almost entering into the same world that they existed in, because we’re not quite sure whether it’s to the nearest 10 million or the nearest 5 million: we, in trying to estimate their crimes, are in a world where you lose a million here, you lose 5 million there.
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